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Canyon grad Fleshman's run not over yet

After retirement, world-renowned runner remains in athletic community

Posted: July 27, 2016 10:41 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2016 10:41 p.m.
Fleshman, now 34, discovered her gift for running after receiving punishment for being late to a middle school gym class. Photo courtesy of Oiselle Fleshman, now 34, discovered her gift for running after receiving punishment for being late to a middle school gym class. Photo courtesy of Oiselle
Fleshman, now 34, discovered her gift for running after receiving punishment for being late to a middle school gym class. Photo courtesy of Oiselle
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Canyon High graduate Lauren Fleshman says gratitude and nostalgia have characterized the days following her retirement Friday from professional racing.

“Instead of thinking about what to do, I’m thinking about who contributed to making my career really special,” Fleshman, a two-time U.S. Track and Field champion in the 5,000-meter run, told the Signal.

Fleshman, 34, grew up a softball player, but arriving late for gym class one day changed all that.

Her choices for punishment: pick up cans, or run in a middle school track meet.

She ran.

Dave DeLong, a longtime Canyon High cross country and track and field coach, saw that race, she says, and convinced her to run at Canyon.

MORE: Canyon grad Fleshman retires from professional racing

Fleshman thought she’d do it to stay in shape for softball. That, of course, was more than two decades ago.

In her prep career, Fleshman won CIF state individual titles in cross country and track. She won a cross country team state title as a freshman, a season she says built the foundation for her 21-year running career. It instilled a passion for community, an “understanding that excellence is not achieved alone.”

“I cannot emphasize enough how amazing the Canyon High coaching staff is,” Fleshman says.

Fleshman’s high school “claim to fame,” as DeLong calls it, came in 1999, her senior year.

At the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 finals, Fleshman won the 800, the 1,600, the 3,200, and still had gas in the tank.

“I think she could have won a fourth,” DeLong says.

Fleshman’s parents, Frank and Joyce, were not the type to meet her just outside the track gate, jumping and hugging, even after a Southern Section triple.

“They were good parents,” DeLong says. “They let her do her thing and enjoyed her success from a distance.”

Fleshman says she’s thankful her parents didn’t push her to specialize in softball early.

A working class family, Frank (who died of liver cancer last year) and Joyce didn’t pour money into Fleshman’s fledgling softball career, and they were supportive of her shift to running.

Fleshman feels that while her parents hadn’t grown up in organized sports, they demonstrated the qualities of a successful athlete in the way they approached jobs, relationships and life.

Fleshman observed, and took their work ethic to the track.

She went on to win five NCAA championships at Stanford University, earning All-American honors 15 times.

As a pro, she won U.S. championships in the 1,500 in 2006 and 2010. She finished runner-up in 2005. She took seventh in the world in the 5K in 2011.

If possible, she’s been nearly as prolific with a pen, having already published “Believe Training Journal,” a running workbook with motivational essays. A training journal for competitive runners is set for release this November.

Writing since high school, she started her blog, AskLaurenFleshman.com, in the late 2000s, answering questions about running and giving insight into her life.

Post ideas can take shape inside her head for days before she starts typing, and each generally has a common catalyst.

“I usually start each post with a feeling where I have a curiosity of why I feel a certain way,” Fleshman says. “Usually it’s due to conflict or how things are not going the way I expected.”

It’s a sentiment Fleshman knows all too well.

A nytimes.com article published Friday referred to her as most likely being “the best American distance runner never to make an Olympic team.”

The article says foot problems held her back in 2004 and 2008. A knee injury limited her training for the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, and an Achilles injury kept her out of this year’s trials altogether.

Some of her best writing, she says, describes the feeling of not getting what you want.

“It helps people see there is always something good to uncover, or at least useful to uncover,” she says. “Resilience can be built.”

As for her future, Fleshman plans to continue impacting her sport by advocating anti-doping policies.

She also plans to keep serving as CMO of the company she co-founded in around 2009: Picky Bars (“well-balanced trail mix smashed into a bar,” she says).

She’ll spend time with her 3-year-old son, Jude, and husband of eight years, Jesse Thomas.

She plans to write, too.

So don’t you dare write her off.

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